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Biographical entry Knaggs, Robert Lawford (1858 - 1945)

MRCS 14 November 1883; FRCS 12 June 1884; BA Cambridge 1880; MA MB BCh 1885; MD 1889; MCh 1890; LRCP 1883.

27 December 1858
Huddersafield, Yorkshire
16 April 1945
Newton Abbot, Devon
General surgeon


Born at Huddersfield, Yorkshire on 27 December 1858, the second son of Samuel Knaggs (1829-1911), MRCS, for whom see Lancet, 1911, 1, 1241, and his wife Frances Isabel Battye. He was educated at Huddersfield Grammar School, Rossall School, and Caius College, Cambridge. He took his medical training at Guy's Hospital, where he served as house physician and resident obstetric physician. He passed the Conjoint Board in 1883, took the Fellowship the next summer and graduated in medicine at Cambridge the following year 1885, proceeding later to both the MD and the MCh.

Knaggs settled in practice at Leeds, where he became in due course consulting surgeon to the General Infirmary. He excellently upheld the great tradition of Leeds surgery, but being modest and retiring he was overshadowed by the ambitious brilliance of his senior colleague A W Mayo Robson and his junior colleague Berkeley Moynihan. From 1910 till 1919 Knaggs was professor of surgery at Leeds University. During the first world war he combined his civilian duties at the Leeds General Infirmary with those of surgeon to the 2nd Northern General Hospital, holding the rank of major, RAMC(T), gazetted 14 October 1908.

After his retirement Knaggs lived in London and devoted his energies to pathological research. He had served on the Court of Examiners of the College 1911-21 and was a Hunterian professor 1923-25. He published a valuable monograph on Inflammatory and toxic diseases of bone, 1926, which admirably combined the fruits of his clinical experience and pathologic research. He then worked 1927-30, as an honorary assistant to C F Beadles and T W P Lawrence in the Hunterian Museum, arranging and cataloguing the Strangeways arthritis collection (see RCS Annual report on the Museum 1928, 1929, and especially 1930, pages 4-7). The College recognized his work by the presentation of the Honorary medal 1930, which was handed to him by his former Leeds colleague, Moynihan.

Lawford Knaggs married twice: (1) in 1926 Adrienne Ernestine Blanche, daughter of A Blouet-Dargonne of Paris and widow of Morton William Smith (1851-1925) of Newquay, Cornwall, Recorder of Rochester from 1897; Mrs Knaggs died on 14 December 1931 at Newquay; (2) in 1933 Anne, daughter of John Simpson of Hunmanby, Yorkshire, who survived him. There were no children of either marriage. Knaggs lived latterly at Glenburnie, 20 Forde Park, Newton Abbot, Devon, where he died on 16 April 1945, aged 86. Knaggs was a tall man, upright in carriage as in character. Though cautious and deliberate in operating, his surgical standards were very high and his width of knowledge exceptional. He was always a general surgeon, even occasionally treating ophthalmic patients, but was chiefly interested in abdominal and orthopaedic surgery.

Compound depressed fracture of the skull, cerebral abscess, hernia cerebri, recovery; with a consideration of hernia cerebri based on 109 cases. Med Chir Trans 1897, 80, 249-302.
Volvulus in association with hernia. Ann Surg 1900, 31, 405.
Diaphragmatic hernia of stomach, torsion of small omentum, and volvulus of stomach. Lancet, 1904, 2, 358.
Punctured fractures of base of skull. Ibid. 1907, 1, 1477.
On implantation of the ureters into the rectum by the sacral route; illustrated by a case of inveterate vesico-vaginal fistula. Brit med J. 1910, 1, 1224.
Contribution to the study of ossification in sarcomata of bone, with O C Gruner. Brit J Surg. 1914-15, 2, 366.
Osteitis fibrosa. Ibid. 1922-23, 10, 487.
Leontiasis osteosa. Ibid. 1923-24, 11, 347.
Osteogenesis imperfecta. Ibid. 1923-24, 11, 737.
On osteitis deformans (Paget's disease) and its relation to osteitis fibrosa and osteomalacia. Ibid. 1925-26, 13, 206.
The inflammatory and toxic diseases of bone. Bristol, Wright, 1926. 416 pages. Achondroplasia. Brit J Surg. 1927-28, 15, 10.
Cretinism. Ibid. 1928-29, 16, 370.
A report on the Strangeways collection of rheumatoid joints in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. Ibid. 1932-33, 20, 113; 309; 425.
Acromegaly. Ibid. 1935-36, 23, 69.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1945, 1, 646, and p 753, eulogy by A P Bertwistle, FRCSEd; Lancet, 1945, 1, 612, with a survey of his work by a former pupil; Univ Leeds Med Soc Mag. 1945, 15, 81 appreciation by A P Bertwistle, and portrait on p 77; information from Mrs Lawford Knaggs; personal knowledge].

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